Spitznagel & Taleb On Inequality, Free Markets, & Inevitable Crashes

Tyler Durden's picture

Originally posted at The National Review,

Inequality, Free Markets, and Crashes

Nassim Taleb and Mark Spitznagel talk about how government intervention postpones the inevitable.

By Nassim Taleb & Mark Spitznagel


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LetThemEatRand's picture

"What irony that the same people who today loudly endorse a global wealth tax to rein in inequality were also the very ones saying guys like us were nuts for opposing the bailouts back in 2008!"

These guys have a lot of smart things to say, but this isn't one of them.  Almost all Americans were against the bank bailouts.  Congress did it anyway.  Now there are high profile assholes like Krugman who purport to speak for "liberals" or whatever other team is supposed to represent the cause against oligarchs, and who see the concentration of wealth among a few thousand people as endangering our very existence as a society.  The fact is that most Americans knew that the bailouts were a give-away to the very top.  The rest is propaganda.

CH1's picture

Nice to see people with well-known names bring up the C-word: Coercion.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Even children use coercion.  Playground bullies etc.  Human nature is what it is.  Most of us are not sociopaths, but sociopaths have a way of ruining otherwise well designed systems for sharing the playground.  If we decided that sharing is bad and we all just decided to build our own playgrounds, you can be assured that some sociopath would decide that he wants yours.

nmewn's picture

I guess when its framed as a "public playground" all's well then. As long as the bully doesn't push my kid off the slide in my own backyard everythings cool.

But thats not how it works.

So you're an anarchist now?

LetThemEatRand's picture

CH1 is an anarchist.  I am pointing out how anarchy works in practice.

CH1's picture

CH1 is an anarchist.

All the cool kids are doing it!

And chicks dig it. :)

LetThemEatRand's picture

I really get where you are coming from and sometimes I go there.  My whole issue is that the sociopaths would ruin a world without checks and balances.  As flawed as our system is, I think it could be fixed if we could ever figure out a way to take oligarch money out of politics and have regular people elected to represent us.   Limited government of the people by the people.  That's the answer in my view.

As far as chicks digging your point of view, have you considered that it may be the ape gerth?

kaiserhoff's picture

 I definitely agree that the only conception of the state that makes any sense is the “night watchman” variety, which exists only to enforce the rules of the game rather than trying to pick the winners and losers (whether it’s financial institutions or monoculture crops). There is a deep tradition in classical liberalism and modern libertarianism that stresses the importance of limiting government action to the defense of life and limb — a defense of “negative liberty” — rather than the “positive”

This should be taght in every class room in America, every year.

Enough Soviet Socialist armed robbery for god's sake.


LetThemEatRand's picture

Couldn't agree more.   The night watchman metaphor is brilliant.

Anusocracy's picture

"Even children use coercion."

Children are still animals and so are most adults.

Being human is where man is headed, not where he is.

Offthebeach's picture

The Soviet's schools will teach anti-sovietisms?

Good luck with thar.

kaiserhoff's picture

 How in the cornbread hell do I still get double posts now and then?

Possession by demons of the interweb???


Pairadimes's picture

The existence of sociopaths and bad actors must be stipulated in any conversation about optimal governance - there can be no provision for the future which guarantees that bad actors will not gain control of the mechanisms of government. Instead, our systems must be designed to survive the presence of these bad actors.

This is precisely why the 'night watchman' concept of government is so critical. The threat posed by bad actors as leaders is in direct proportion to how much centralized control the government has accumulated, and that they can then wield. The only way to protect ourselves from these kinds of leaders is to greatly limit government, and therefore their ability to intervene in our lives.

If the vast majority of wealth and power were in decentralized, private hands in the U.S. today, the disagreeable actions of a much-diminished federal government would be far less consequential. By the same token, bad actors in the private sector would be greatly limited in the ability to alter the landscape in their favor through the purchase of influence.

Better, it seems, that some of these powers be vested at the state versus federal level, where the scope of government impact is limited geographically, and the connection between voter and government that drives policy is a local one.

Anusocracy's picture

God you're stupid.

The sociopaths become the checks and balances and they always act in their own self-interest.

It's like expecting cancer cells to behave like immune cells to control cancer.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

The problem is " regular" people have no attraction for elected government positions. It appears only in the early stages of this country did this appear to be the case. Only narcissistic sociopaths have a strong desire to impose their will on others. Therefore, they flock to government to satisfy their natural power hungry nature. Anyone wanting to " represent" the people today is suspect by default.

I'm afraid you'd do better to find a quality individual and force him to do the job under gun point. No, I myself would not consider it and would take the bullet. Unless it's a dictatorship and then, at some point as history has shown, the bullet would be necessary.


nailgunnin4you's picture

Regular people don't seek authority over the masses, only sociopaths do. Until you recognise this, you will always presume "limited government" to be slightly more pragmatic than anarchism and not 'tuther way round.

Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Obummer and the rest are evidence that a state does not restrict the playground bully, it just expands their playground. 

BolanosGhost's picture

Isn't the whole idea of checks and balances made moot by the very fact that governments constitute a monopoly within the borders they claim? As it was conceived in the constitution, the US gov started as a monopoly on juridical and defense services. Even with checks and balances, the moral hazard presented by a monopoly on those two functions has led us to where we are - further consolidation of power and the eventual removal of checks and balances by legal means. It seems to me that trying to "figure out a way to take oligarch money out of politics and have regular people elected to represent us" is at least as utopian as the marxist dream. A limited government of the people by the people has already failed, and spectacularly so. Suggesting that government can be limited by the population it claims to represent ignores history and human nature.

My understanding of anarchy is that it doesn't remove checks and balances, rather it seeks to remove the monopoly in all its forms and allow for market competition to perform the checks and balances that it always has. Only with regulatory capture and corporate control of government can a monopoly exist for any extended period of time. 

You are right though, sociopaths will always try to gain advantage through coercion, so then the choice might be between a tyrany of the leviathan vs. a tyrany of occasional imps. I'll take the imps.

nmewn's picture

lol...in an age where, the state monitors your every word, tabulates every penny earned, fines, taxes & fee's it's own servants into luxurious pension retirement...anarchy would be a problem?

LetThemEatRand's picture

It's not an either/or.  That's where we always seem to disagree.

nmewn's picture

Its either or...now Rand.

I've seen your interpretation of law and of society, you're too gullible. Its not that I won't help those in need but I recoil when someone sticks a gun in my face and pronounces they deem someone is in need and I will give it up or go to jail after they placed them in that situation in the first place.

My first inclination is to kill both of them, the guy with the gun and the guy egging him on to steal from me.

Does that make me a sociopath?

LetThemEatRand's picture

Yes.  You bought the gun at a store.  The store had the gun in inventory (even if our NSA society) because some trucker took it there from a warehouse on a public road and he wasn't hijacked.  The store is protected by police.  You drove to the store on a public road.  You paid for it with currency.  If 10 guys show up to take your gun, you call the cops.  It's called normalcy bias.  It's easy to be a faux tough guy when you have a functioning society and there aren't gangs at your door better armed than you.

nmewn's picture

No, I don't buy my guns at stores, I let others buy guns at stores, pay insane taxes and go through background checks (as much as that probably distresses you) to avail myself of my rights.

And yes, I paid them with the "Kings Currency" knowing that its decaying value is a better deal for me than what I could have paid them with and yes MY FUEL TAXES paid for a PRIVATE CONTRACTOR to construct that road...after government handling & fees.

Anything else, besides the ten dead tough guys laying outside my front door being eaten by my dogs?

LetThemEatRand's picture

"Anything else, besides the ten dead tough guys laying outside my front door being eaten by my dogs?"

Okay, tough guy. 

nmewn's picture

Ok what?

You would call 911 instead of protect yourself and your family?

LetThemEatRand's picture

If I had ten guys with machine guns outside I would sure as fuck call 911.  And I would defend as best I could until they got there.   Not an either/or.  But then again I'm not Rambo, like you are apparently.

nmewn's picture

Do you even know what a "machine gun" is? What it takes to buy one legally? What type of individual can own one, legally? The costs involved? Isn't your government supposed to "regulate" those things?

How could Rambo ever own one and yet 10 guys show up at my front door with them? ;-)

nailgunnin4you's picture

If you are not involved in the criminal underworld (the underworld created by the illogical and immoral legislation of the state), then there is a 99.99% chance those machine gun toting guys outside your door are the police! You didn't happen to buy any raw milk recently, smoked a harmless plant or maybe just eluded any of the state-enforced monopolies lately?

The other 0.01% I will give to the marauding dystopian gangs scenario you and many statists envision so often.

TheReplacement's picture

A rational person would do both.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

I once asked Mr miffed why I had to buy my 6 guns at the gun store, go though all the finger printing, background checks , wait periods and stupid Cali magazine requirements. I was sick and tired of all the hassle. All his purchases are private. " Your my decoy sweetie" was his response.


Anusocracy's picture

So you believe that roads can only be provided by government?

And only government can provide security?

And money?

You are so simple-minded.

Offthebeach's picture

Around here the ten guys kicking doors, throwing flash bang stun granades into baby cribs are the police.

NY City, and most suburban trolly light rail was private owned, finaced and built.

Highways are user financed via gas tax. Management, repair should be privatized. But try breaking the union, big contractor, politician triangle.

BigJim's picture

 Yes.  You bought the gun at a store.  The store had the gun in inventory (even if our NSA society) because some trucker took it there from a warehouse on a public road and he wasn't hijacked.  The store is protected by police.  You drove to the store on a public road.  You paid for it with currency.  If 10 guys show up to take your gun, you call the cops.  It's called normalcy bias.  It's easy to be a faux tough guy when you have a functioning society and there aren't gangs at your door better armed than you.

Let's unpack this, shall we?

You bought the gun at a store. 
stores don't need BigGov

The store had the gun in inventory (even if our NSA society) because some trucker took it there
truckers don't need BigGov

from a warehouse
warehouses don't need BigGov

on a public road
OK, as a geolibertarian I agree natural resources are a 'commons', and furthermore not really open to competition. (If you, dear reader, doubt this, imagine roads are private and some entity bought up the roads around your neighbourhood and then started to charge extortionate tolls to use them). So you can make an argument roads require government. But roads exsted long before social welfare... so, no, roads don't need BigGov either.

and he wasn't hijacked
He may well get hijacked even with BigGov, but I agree he's less likely to if there's a decent police force... who - preferably - aren't out throwing people into cages for ingesting the 'wrong' kind of plant. But police exsted long before social welfare... so, no, police don't need BigGov either.

The store is protected by police.  You drove to the store on a public road. 
See above

You paid for it with currency.
You've been on ZH how long and you make a mistake like that? Jesus LTER, frankly, that's fucking shocking: you think we need government for our currency? Don't you take in ANY of the monetary stuff posted here?

If 10 guys show up to take your gun, you call the cops... It's easy to be a faux tough guy when you have a functioning society etc
All your examples have established is that we need a minimum government... not, as nmewn points out, a bunch of people who can legally shove a gun in our face and demand we give them money so they can hand it over to people who vote them into power expressly because they promise to do just that... all the while diverting resources from what they're supposed to be doing.

Roads can easily be paid for with land, gasoline, and vehicle taxes. Police, courts, & prisons can be paid out of local land taxes and the locals can decide what they'd like the police to devote their time to (you can bet it won't be arresting pot smokers). In return for paying land taxes, land 'owners' get legal right to monopolise the land they pay for.

foodstampbarry's picture

CH1 is an anarchist until his team is the winning team.

Same as it ever was.

Atomizer's picture

CH1: Your too kind, we call it RACKETEERING



These fucking mutts will end up in prison. Bank on it!

Silver Bug's picture

The government is doing everything it can to negate free market forces. The mass printing of fiat money being felt around the world is greatly distorting economies. The only safe haven left is precious metals, which they are actively attacking. Eventually we will win the day.

Keep Stacking!

Oreilly's picture

You're actually stating their point.  Congress (let's broaden that and say politicians because although it was a Congressional vote there were a lot more folks involved than the House and Senate) did go thru with bailouts, and politicians are the ones currently rumbling about inequality (Krugman is just a talking head, he has little influence just a big mouth and a column at the NYT).  You and I and the general population were/are against both of these wealth grabs, but who cares what you and I think?  Spitznagel and Taleb are talking about those who have decision making power, not about the general population who have little or no ability to impact anything. 

If they got anything wrong it was in using the word "Irony".  Both bailouts and wealth taxes are premeditated theft, and there is nothing ironic about how the elite class uses them for control purposes.

limacon's picture



4.Some corollaries : If GINI smaller than 0.28 , instability ensues . Insufficient reserves. Usually collapse . Cities deserted as the good citizens just walk away . ( See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com/2014/01/evanescence-of-cities.html ) . Or the collapse of the USSR . See http://www.roiw.org/1993/23.pdf The 1989 Gini of USSR = 0.275 .  It shouldn’t have led to collapse , but they were in an arms-race with USA . Insufficient reserves . The system went into shock and collapsed .   If GINI  bigger than 0.38 , instability ensues . Too much reserves in too few hands . Usually revolution . See Arab Spring , Syria , Occupy Wall st , etc etc .Or any peasant rebellion in history , a-la-France  or Russia .   5.Where are we now 2014 ? Every country with a Gini bigger than 0.38 and social media access is a revolution waiting to happen .
Countries with Gini smaller than 0.28 have to be propped up .


TheReplacement's picture

LOL, Greece @ .33 in 2005.

DOGGONE's picture

Get your head out, and read/understand this:
The Public Be Suckered

Yen Cross's picture

 Humanity is analog. Everything you see is analog. Space and time are analog.

  Super fast images are analog. This NSA crap is stillborn, and obsolete in the box. 

  Th scumbag that authorizes it's use against people isn't!

SheepDog-One's picture

Ask the bullies to provide protection against bullying....uh huh sure.

kaiserhoff's picture

Instant classic.

Thanks Tylers.

Oreilly's picture

There is a lot that is correct in what they say, but at the end of the day .... so what?  The equity markets in the US continue to rise on bad economic and global news, the employment and business cycle statistics keep being doctored to show that everything is just peachy when huge amounts of labor sits idle, and the world keeps racing towards the abyss that I've heard talk of for the past 5 years (or 15 or 25 or 35 or 45, ad infinitum).  I think the world of Nassim Taleb and try to take his insight into account in how I handle my assets, but this tells me nothing more about our current condition than has been obvious to even the casual reader for quite some while.  Now if they could tell me when the whole calliope comes crashing down, then they've actually told me something.  Because until an author puts in a realistic description of the state of things and things to come and then BACKS IT UP with a timetable, then I'll keep reminding myself of what Keynes said:

"The markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

Frilton Miedman's picture



The government of my government is my enemy.

From the concept of Occam's razor, this discussion complicates a simple argument to prove a point.

Through the length of the entire article, not one mention of Glass-Steagall's removal or the advent of the CFMA's affect on markets by allowing large trading entities to control input costs & earnings (via futures) of whole sectors in total secrecy.

Is this natural price discovery?..a Free market?

Pure coincidence that TBTF prop desks are profitable every single day?

As for the bailouts, had Geitner bailed out homeowners instead of the criminal perpetrators, we'd be in FAR better shape in terms of wealth equality.

In retrospect, seeking fiscal rebalance from the TBTF's and their eight figured executives while favoring regionals and small businesses, seems like a decent idea, call it a "government takeover" if you must, but the TBTF's aren't going to relinquish their power via the status quo.

Nor is a government that's governed by the TBTF's.

I don't see this as a regulatory problem per se, so much as who controls the regulations.

There are corrupt police in the department, does that mean we close the whole department?

Again, The government of my government is my enemy.




ebworthen's picture

Divorce central banking from crony capitalism.

End the central banks and outlaw investment banks and bailouts.

The markets don't function because central banks backstop the gambling of investment banks.

If the investment banks and their leveraged bets in corporations/insurers lose - they are given more chips by the central banks from the public coffers.

If the dysfunctional enabling relationship between central banks and the financial engineering gambling addicted investment banks isn't sundered - the public treasuries and taxpayers will continue to be pilfered - regulations or naught.

Frilton Miedman's picture

While I agree that the Fed is tantamount to privatized governance in it's own rite, specifically where TBTF's comprise the board, I stand by my comments above regarding removing Glass Steagall and the CFMA and their effect on this farce of a "free market".

As long as banks are allowed to buy limitless quantities of futures & derivatives in secrecy without position limits, they own us.

They control input costs for any sector, in turn, they control earnings and know in advance whether a sector will soar or crash.

For every winning trade, there is a loser, which begs the question - if TBTF prop desks are constantly profitable 100% of the time - Who's been the losing trade the whole time?

I applaud the need to reform the Fed, but I think sole focus on the Fed is a dangerously short-sighted idea right now.

Start with CFTC position limits, onus for that falls on Congress/Senate/POTUS allowing the banking lobby to circumvent position limits.

Before that, the level of control money has on Congress/Senate, SCOTUS and POTUS is the greater issue, while it's the TBTF cartel now, with SuperPAC anonymity, it's a matter of time before Communist or Muslim extremist interests excercise their "free speech".

If they aren't already.





max2205's picture

That's not true.  Fed buys from winners like banks cashing out.....think about it

Frilton Miedman's picture



The Fed is a boogeyman, sure, but it's NOT the only boogeyman, nor is it the worst.

Relative to my point, the FED isn't responsible for removing Glass-Steagall and creating the CFMA that is causal to the single biggest transfer of stolen wealth in U.S. history.

Look to Potus, Congress & Senate for that.

You missed my point entirely, I see a lot of sureness that focusing solely on the Fed is all that need be done.

That assumption is dangerously short sighted, it serves to distract from the greater danger of bribed government, or, as Antonin Scalia calls it - "free speech".



Morla's picture

The people manipulating the congress are largely the same TBTF elites who have the Fed as their private clubhouse.

Frilton Miedman's picture



Yep, and going after the Fed alone doesn't stop that.